Maintenance Procedures You can do Yourself and Save a Little Cash
Owning a car certainly has its benefits, but it can be somewhat expensive to keep up on maintenance. Some of us have been doing our own basic maintenance for years, while others are afraid of messing something up and would rather leave that to the “professionals.” I emphasize the word “professionals” because if you routinely hit up an oil change location or any random garage, you may be trusting your ride to technicians without formal training. These techs are often pressed to race the clock, as well.
In all fairness, I spent a couple of my younger years as a Valvoline tech and received plenty of on-the-job training. Still, there’s nothing like doing your own maintenance. You can actually save yourself a decent chunk of money performing some basic maintenance yourself. And, in doing so, you’ll also get to know your car better and have a nice sense of accomplishment when you’re done.
In this article, I’ll cover some of the basic maintenance procedures that can be done with minimal tools and a little bit of elbow grease. Of course, every make and model are different, so it might be a good idea to invest in a manual for your vehicle. For the most part, however, each process can be summed up in general, and it just might give you the confidence to try it yourself. Some of the topics I’m covering are really basic – like changing an air filter, for instance – but even something like changing your own transmission fluid could be within the realm of your abilities, and you didn’t even know it.
So, let’s take a gentle first step into the world of performing your own car maintenance.
What’s In A VIN?
It’s a 17-digit code that some car owners don’t even know exists. It’s called the Vehicle Identification Number and it’s arguably one of the most important things about any car. At the very least, it’s important enough that car owners should have a correct copy of the number in the event of recalls, registrations, warranty claims, thefts, and insurance coverages.
So what exactly is a VIN? The technical definition is that it’s the auto equivalent of a fingerprint. It’s the ultimate identifier of a specific car because no two vehicles in operation carry the same VIN. In addition to its “fingerprint-like” nature, the VIN also provides a treasure trove of information, including where the car was built and what kind of engine it uses. As long as a car owner knows how to read a VIN, he can find out a lot about the car even if he doesn’t actually see it in person.
That said, it’s important to note that the contents of a VIN could vary depending on the automaker. There are some all-encompassing identifiers and the sequence of digits and letters typically signify the same thing. It’s the use of the digits and letters that could be different.
It’s admittedly a little confusing at first, so that’s where we come into the picture. We’re here to provide a quick crash course on how to properly identify a VIN and what all those letters and numbers mean.
Once it becomes clearer, that seemingly innocuous 17-digit alphanumeric code will carry a totally different and far more important meaning.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Burnouts: The Science Behind It, What Goes Wrong, And How To Do It The Right Way
Burnouts. They are a great past time for any guy who has had a car with a little bit of power and a necessary evil for those who like to hit the quarter mile strip on the weekend. It seems pretty easy, right? Slam the gas, let the wheels break loose, steer the car, and hope people stay out of your way. Unfortunately, it’s really not that simple. The internet is littered with videos of “that guy” and the untimely demise of his car because he just didn’t know what he was doing.
See, there is a lot more to burnouts that just having raw power in your hands. There is a science to it, as well as skill. You have to know your car, how to control a skid, and everything has to be just right, or you might end up biting a curb, destroying your car’s drivetrain, hitting another car, or worse. In this article, we’re going to cover the science behind burning out, why things tend to go wrong, and discuss how to do it the right way, so you don’t end up staring in the next viral video of a driver who bites off more he can chew while leaving an auto show.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I want to start by saying that there is an overwhelming number of burnout fail videos involving Mustangs. I don’t know why that is. I do have an opinion, but we’ll leave that discussion for a more appropriate forum (maybe the comments section below.) That said, I have made it a point to only include one Mustang fail video here so you Ford fans don’t get your panties in a bunch. Other bits we’ll discuss include a Chevy Camaro that eats the curb, a Dodge Charger that loses its nose, a BMW that catches on fire, and a Chevy Corvette that will need a lot more than $600 tires after a failed attempt at burning out. While it might be fun to laugh at the guys here (not that they don’t deserve to be laughed at, at least a little,) the important thing here is to identify what went wrong, why things took a nasty turn, and what you need to know so your car can live to show off another day.
If you like puzzles, problem solving, and breaking conformity, there’s a motorized hobby to waste your time and money. Off-roading seems simple enough; take a vehicle away from the pavement and drive around places that haven’t been destroyed by bureaucracy. However, there’s a fine line between being a mall crawler and getting stuck. Here’s how to ride that line and get hopelessly addicted to wheeling.
Pick Your Poison:
First, you’re going to need a rig. The recipe for a good one includes four wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case, a solid rear axle at the least, and decent aftermarket support. For beginners, you’ll want to pick something with tidy dimensions and minimal body overhangs so you can start with generous approach, departure, and break-over angles. The greater the angles, the taller the obstacle you can crawl over before you snag your bumper or high-center your frame.
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The 2015 model year has been an extremely exciting one that now flows into automotive history. We’ve seen the automakers stumbling inches from death while others have somehow been reborn. Vehicles are now getting better fuel economy than ever, yet horsepower and performance numbers continue to grow – though not usually from the same platform. Still, this year has been a fantastic ride full of drama, big debuts, and lots of honestly excellent cars.
It’s our job here at TopSpeed to bring you the latest news from the automotive industry and reviews of the newest products. It might be the best job in the world, second only to being an astronaut, in my book – but naming winners from this year’s crop of cars will be tough. Automakers have poured vast amounts of time and money into making products better. Cars in the last five years have risen in quality, feature content, and connectability. Those found on dealer lots in 2015 represent the latest in a century’s old industry that prides itself on creating things people desire and chase after.
Thankfully we have criteria that should make the task simpler. If you haven’t read how TopSpeed’s award system works, click here. These vehicles will be judged not against each other, but against our seven key points. Narrowing the field, contenders must be significantly refreshed or all-new for the 2015 or 2016 model year, and must have been in dealer showrooms within the 2015 calendar year.
Lastly, each of our editors will submit their top five pick for each of the three categories that include car, truck, and performance vehicle. Here are my top picks.
Armed with that info, let’s get to it.
There is never a time when I feel more like a massive car nerd then when I’m picking a best of list. It’s not that these kinds of lists are inherently nerdy, it’s just that I think about them far too much, and invariably go full High Fidelity. As always, my list of top picks for 2015 has been amended several times and mulled over for days. I have tried to offer up a diverse list, both when it comes to pricing and also intended function, although this comes through mostly with the trucks section.
I haven’t included any Volkswagens and I will admit that this is possibly unfair. I like VW’s cars, but I also used to love its diesels, so I feel my assessment of VW products is tainted. I’m not entirely sure any of them would have made the list anyway, but I will give the GTI an honorable mention here. I have included a couple of Audis and a Porsche too, so that kind of counts. It was a struggle not to make this list about half Ford products as well. Ford brought out a lot of new products this year, and it’s difficult not to be biased as the owner of a 2015 Ford. I resisted, perhaps wrongly, but that’s why naming the best of 2015 is a team effort.
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2015 has been a great year for the automotive industry, bringing us everything from faster-than-ever performance cars, to roomier and more efficient family vehicles, to semi-autonomous rides, and new-generation electric and hydrogen-powered models. We also saw a large number of fascinating new concept cars that will become production vehicles in the future, while several automakers reached benchmarks that seemed impossible a decade ago.
However, 2015 was also a year that saw many models being discontinued here in the United States. While some are aging models that are being replaced by new nameplates, other vehicles were simply phased out due to slow sales or because they were developed for niches that are no longer feasible in today’s changing market.
With the year now coming to an end, TopSpeed is taking a look back at the discontinued cars we said goodbye to in 2015. But, rather than include all the models that got the axe last year, I focused on those that most of us will miss and the vehicles that, at some point in their life cycle, made a significant impact on the market. Find out more about it below and tell us which model you will miss the most in the comments section.
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With the 2015 calendar year coming to an end, it’s time to evaluate what has happened in the industry over the last 12 months and honor the best vehicles that arrived in showrooms in our annual TopSpeed Awards. This year, we are set to crown three winners – the car, truck, and performance vehicle of the year – and to do that we’ve put together a set of criteria. You can learn more about it here.
Granted, 2015 has been an eventful year with several new or updated releases for each segment, including the three we are set to judge. With so many new vehicles to choose from, picking five nominees and judging them against the criteria has been rather difficult. But after much thorough analysis and deliberation, I’ve come up with what I consider to be the top five greatest contenders for this year’s TopSpeed awards.
Check them all about below and make sure you stick around to find out what my fellow editors picked for each category, as well as for the big announcement on January 4th, 2016, when we will reveal the winners. Also, feel free to agree or disagree with my nominations in the comments section.
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Of all the things I write about here at TopSpeed, picking a “best of” list is without question the toughest one to do. Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea of trying to come up with a list of cars, trucks/SUVs, and performance cars that really stood out this year, but there’s also a lot of pressure that comes with it. Did I make the right choices? Did I forget a model that should’ve been on that list? Did I overrate a model that made it on my list? These are only a handful of questions that I’ve struggled through in the past few days as I compiled my list.
In the end, I think I managed to come up with a list that’s at least half-decent. Okay, I think I did a little better than that. As much as I wanted to include some models on my list, the inevitable last-second cuts happened in all three categories. I wish I could’ve picked more, but given the pressure that already comes with choosing five models in each category, anything more might have resulted in my head exploding.
Alas, this is my list. Feel free to agree or disagree until the cows come home.
It doesn’t really matter what your automotive predilections may be – 2015 was a helluva year to love cars. Technological breakthroughs and developing social perceptions continue to transform the industry on an almost daily basis, and automakers are beginning to see the inherent opportunities of this transformation, rather than just the threat to the status quo. And while no one will deny the mounting pressure to evolve, the basics of what’s positive about cars remain. Icons change, expectations change, but that original kernel of what makes four-wheeled transport so fundamentally good continues onwards. The result, at least for folks like you and me, is some truly fantastic cars.
While I’d be happy to discuss the broad strokes of trends in the car world, my purpose here is different. I’m here to highlight 15 of the best new models on the road, whether they’re economical commuters, elegant SUVs, workhorse trucks, or exotic if-I-had-the-money fantasies. While I admit that my own tastes skew towards the lightweight, affordable, and fun-to-drive, I appreciate any vehicle that taps into that original kernel of goodness, no matter what the shell on top may look like.
Continue reading for my top picks for 2015.
With 2015 coming to an end, it’s time for us look back over the year and evaluate the year as a whole. This year, we’ve decided to pick out the best cars available in 2015 from three different segments and crown them as such. Our criteria for selection was strict, but not so strict that we couldn’t have fun with our nominees.
With a year like 2015, it is hard to label out just a few cars, so I’ve picked five cars, trucks, and performance beasts to nominate as the best cars of 2015. The rest of the staff here at TopSpeed has done the same, and we’re excited to tally up the results. The winners will be crowned on January 4th, 2016, but until then, make sure to check out everybody’s picks for car of the year.
What’s your input on car of the year? Hit us up on our Facebook page, or drop a comment below to let me know what you think of my choices, or what you think is the absolute best car of 2015. Remember, only cars available this year count. Happy New Year!
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The North Pole is, like, really remote and isolated, but you just know Santa has one badass Internet connection. I mean, this is almost 2016 folks – how else is he gonna keep tabs on all of us and figure out if we were naughty or nice? With that in mind, we here at TopSpeed decided to put together a Christmas wish list to give the jolly ‘ole saint some direction before it’s time to load up his sleigh.
Of course, a new car is a pretty big ask as far as presents go, but hey – we’ve all been good this year. I’m pretty sure none of us committed any major felonies, and shoot, it’s not like we did anything outrageous, like cheat on emissions tests…
Right. So next to the sugarplums and candy canes, what sweet surprises are dancing through our heads?
Continue reading to learn what’s at the top of our wish list.
The 2015 calendar year is coming to a close, which means it’s TopSpeed’s award season. This year, we are set to crown three winners – a car, truck, and performance vehicle of the year. We’ve put together what we feel is a fair set of criteria to narrow the field of contenders and then to judge each accordingly – not against each other, but against the criteria.
In the coming weeks, TopSpeed will publish each editor’s top five picks for each of the three categories. Once all of our editors have given their submissions, we will assign points to for first through fifth place, with each vehicle racking up points between all the staff. At that point, we will crown the winners.
But before I get ahead of myself in explaining things, we’ve got to lay the ground rules. We are only considering vehicles that were available for purchase during the 2015 calendar year. This includes both the 2015 and early 2016 model years, but only if they were on sale between January 1 and December 31 of 2015. What’s more, vehicles will only be considered if they are all-new or have undergone a significant update or refresh.
So let’s take a look at the criteria. Keep reading for the full run-down.
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By now, you’ve heard about Volkswagen’s #DieselGate or #DieselApocalypse – that the automaker somehow cheated the U.S. EPA into thinking its diesel-powered cars were cleaner than they were. Funny hashtags and aging political scandal references aside, the situation is dire, to say the least.
Volkswagen is facing upwards of $18 billion dollars in fines from the U.S. government and even jail time for many of its executives. Heck, some analysts are speculating VW will even stop selling its TDI diesel vehicles in the U.S. altogether.
So how did all this get started? Well, that’s an excellent question, but it’s only one of a gaggle of questions begging to be asked. Who at VW is responsible? Which vehicles are affected? What are VW dealerships to do? And how will VW fix this enormous mess?
I’ll attempt to solve these mysteries with answers from the experts, the EPA, and even Volkswagen. So keep reading for the rundown.
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Development of the internal combustion engine began before the 19th century, but it was the commercial drilling and production of oil in the mid-1850s that made it so widespread. By the late 19th century, the four-cycle, two-stroke, and Atkinson-cycle were all patented, as was the first gasoline engine with a spark plug, coil ignition, and spray jet carburetor. After Ford launched the Model T in 1908, the bulk of mass-produced cars used an internal combustion engine for motivation.
Over the past century, the internal combustion engine has been updated and redesigned in many ways, spawning far too many iterations to mention here. Some were recognized as groundbreaking advances, while others went in and out of production almost unnoticed. I’m here to discuss some of the greatest engine designs ever created, as well as the brilliant engineers behind them.
Picking only a few wasn’t easy, but after much thought and consideration, I came up with the Top 5 below. I based my selection on factors such as innovation, the number of applications (or cars, if you will), success, and lifespan. It’s possible my personal affinities made me choose certain designs over other equally significant alternatives, so feel free to drop me a line in the comments box if you feel this Top 5 should’ve included other engine designers not mentioned.
Keep reading for the full story.